Livia Jaroka serves on the European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties. She’s vice-chair of the EP committee on women’s rights. In fact, Jaroka is one of today’s most successful young women in European politics. Oh, and the beautiful 36-year-old is a Roma.
“I was lucky to avoid the barriers many Roma face, such as segregated schooling,” Jaroka tells Metro. “I also come from a well-known family of musicians who were able to support my education, but a significant proportion of European Roma face substandard conditions.”
Currently, Jaroka is the only Romani member of the European Parliament.
“One third of Eastern European Roma are reasonably prosperous and successful,” explains Michael Stewart, a professor of anthropology at University College in London. “And in Western European countries there are now many successful Roma as well, but people don’t know that they’re Roma; they’re just Mediterranean-looking.”
Many Roma now own businesses, often together with white partners, and there’s even a growing class of Romani politicians.
And while Romani street musicians conform to the Gypsy stereotype, a new generation of stars has established itself in the world of classical music.
“I want to show that Gypsies can be very intellectual,” explains Geza Hosszu-Legocky, 25, a star violinist. “When people think of Roma, they think of poor people in Romania. … But we’re just like the Jews, a minority spread across many different countries.”
For the past nine years, Hosszu-Legocky has combined a classical music career with his Gypsy band, The 5 Devils. His latest project, the Sinti-Roma Chamber Orchestra, aims to reach the same standard as traditional symphony orchestras. It also plans to raise money for Gypsy children’s education.